I was debating about whether or not to write this post, since I’m not an expert in personal development, psychology, or motivational life coaching.
I know what it’s like to start a new side gig from zero. I also know, first hand, what it’s like to have zero subscribers, zero followers, zero likes, zero ratings, zero visitors, zero comments, zero wind in your sails, zero chance for growth.
And believe me, I’ve struggled with how to start a side gig from zero many times in my life.
On the other hand, if you think about it differently, zero can be weirdly liberating. You may have zero expectations that your new side gig will be sustainable or even profitable. You may have zero followers to please or zero ratings to which to compare your next job. Zero pressure.
Either way you think about it, the “zero” mentality is a giant that you must slay when you start a new side gig. But before we get into HOW to start a side gig from zero, lemme tell you a little story.
Whether it be a blessing or a curse, my natural propensity for creating something new, or jumping into a new project with nothing but blind faith and determination is insanely high. Maybe it’s because I started a friendship necklace business when I was in high school, or a personal training business right out of college, or a food delivery company when I didn’t know how to cook. Creating a new business is like caffeine to me. I gotta have it and I’m totally addicted.
“Each time I started something new, I started from zero.”
And as I sat down to write this post with a poorly written skeleton outline about how to talk about starting a side gig from zero, I started to see a trend emerge. I noticed that all of my side gigs had one thing in common. All five of the following “phases” were present each and every time I started a new side gig. Now, please understand that the phases that I describe below are by no means meant to be a comprehensive scientific analysis. Instead, take these little nuggets of wisdom at face value. My hope is that you will be able to see yourself in one or maybe all five of these phases and the observations below will help you push past whatever demons you’re facing as you start (or continue) your side gig journey.
The Honeymoon Phase
Just the thought of your new side gig evokes nothing but pure bliss. It’s like a shot of dopamine to your brain. Your unbridled enthusiasm, excitement and unadulterated optimism is contagious. You can’t stop thinking about your new idea. Blue skies, fluffy puppies and endless sunshine is ahead.
Then, you go on a shopping spree. You buy new gear for your side gig. You buy memberships to the best stock photo services and maybe even a new outfit. You clear the cobwebs from your workspace. You detail your car. You subscribe to new podcasts and follow more influencers in your industry. You start to sketch out a plan. You. Are. Unstoppable.
The Busy Bee Phase
Now here comes the work, the glorious work. You diligently start to put your plan into action. You create and execute with reckless abandon and have no time for the judgement of naysayers. Then you find a bit of your stride, a little consistency, a routine, a new habit you’ve suddenly put into practice. And then you turn a corner. You start to see a small amount of traction with your side gig. It starts to feel exhilarating, It starts to feel right. It starts to feel achievable. You can climb Mt. Everest.
The Debbie Downer Phase
Then one day, you search Google for a random tidbit of information to help you with the next task on your super long to-do list and BAM! It hits you like a ton of bricks. You see a post, a video or an article from that one person, company, influencer, or whatever, that you admire so much. And guess what? That one piece of content that you stumbled upon is absolutely AH-MAZ-ING.
You then glance at their follower count, their ratings, their subscribers, their views, their whatever and then you look at yours. Zero. Geez. You stink.
Comparison is the thief of joy. – Theodore Roosevelt
The Comparison Trap
Teddy Roosevelt famously said “comparison is the thief of joy.” and boy was he right. I don’t even know anything worse than a sucker punch from a self-inflicted comparison between you and “someone better.”
And I’ll raise you one more, Teddy. I’ve also found that comparing your work, or even yourself, to others can be downright paralyzing. How many times have you thought to yourself, “this has been done better by other people, why should I even bother? Why even try? Why should I keep going?” Wow, frenemy (**talking to self**) slow your roll for a sec.
When I find myself in the throws of the comparison trap, the only thing that helps me crush that taunting little voice inside my head is to remember one thing. Each and every “super successful” person or company out there creating massively successful consumable content is at a completely different stage than me. For now.
In other words, the work that I admire most comes from people or companies that have put in years of hard work to get to where they are today. They’ve had decades to hone their side gig (which has eventually turned into a successful full time gig) and they are only showing the world a small snapshot of their absolute best work.
And lemme tell you a little secret about starting a side gig from zero…
In the spirit of being completely honest with you, I have a confession to make. About three weeks into developing Side Gig Central, I had so many insecurities about this new project. I was in the Debbie Downer Phase AND in the Comparison Trap. Man, was a joy to be around!
The real trigger for me was when I started to realize the true scope of the project, the realities of time management were hitting me hard and I had a big “oh @#$!” moment. My inner dialogue sounded like this:
What if I can’t create content fast enough while I’m still working a full time job?
What if side gig entrepreneurs don’t find any value in the content I’m creating?
What if I can’t book interesting guests for the podcast?
I have zero track record with this, will I ever get traction?
I’m only a few weeks in and yes, my mind is already playing tricks on me. Patience has never been a strong character trait of mine so I quickly realized that I needed some sort of hack to keep me on track. By the end of my first month developing Side Gig Central, one of my only comforts was to continue chugging “life coachy” business podcasts like a college student chugs Red Bull during finals. It was literally the only thing KEEPING ME GOING, regardless of the negative chatter in my brain.
Which brings me to the last phase of starting a side gig…
Decide to Just Keep Swimming
Man, Dory. You’re a poet and don’t even know it. Regardless of the fact that this quote came from a Pixar film, (which I’m not afraid to admit, I LOVE), this animated fish can sure spit some truth.
Similar to Dory, Nike says to “just do it” and even Einstein says “to keep your life in balance, you must keep moving.” Thanks Nike and Einstein but your sentiment is way easier said than done. And at this point, I can see the cynics in the back rolling their eyes into the back of their heads.
So, riddle me this Batman. How will you ever know what’s possible for your life unless you give it a solid crack? One valiant effort or one hail mary pass? Sure, it will be extremely uncomfortable and it might even make you a little sick to your stomach.
But the answer is you don’t. You have no idea what’s possible unless you start and KEEP GOING. You see what I did there? I put the emphasis on KEEP GOING.
So, the next time you find yourself slogging through another reboot of photos for your social feed, creating another product layout for your Shopify store, or even reading some negative reviews from your past five rideshare trips, just remember one thing. Instead of giving into the urge to throw in the towel, accept it for what it is and MOVE THE HECK ON. Just keep swimming.
Starting your side gig from zero is a marathon, not a sprint
And that, ladies and gents is how you start a side gig from zero. Some good ol’ fashioned grit, determination and marathon running shoes will serve you well. Plus, I’ve found it really helpful to identify what “phase” you’re currently in so that you can plan for the next one and maybe even save your sanity from the dreaded Comparison Trap.
So, whaddaya say? Will you join me in lacing up your marathon running shoes? (You know the ones with the bright neon colors and squishy soles.) If you’ve read this post til the bitter end, I think you’re up for it. And that’s great because I’ll be the one running right alongside you, cheering you on and swiping tons of water from those people standing on the sidelines with one arm outstretched with a Gatorade cup.
You got this.